Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Turkey’s exiled magnate says Erdogan is hunting him down

Akin Ipek says his London address and car number plates have been leaked

Turkish businessman Akin Ipek still has hope for the future of Turkey. AFP
Turkish businessman Akin Ipek still has hope for the future of Turkey. AFP

Hundreds of death threats have been made against Turkish business giant Akin Ipek, who is in fear for his life despite taking refuge in London.

Mr Ipek said he had been harassed and followed by pro-Ankara journalists who leaked his address and car registration numbers on the internet.

People claiming to be newsagents have shown up at his door to covertly record and photograph him.

“I took hundreds of death threats after that and even if somebody killed me now, nobody is going to who did it because it’s public information,” Mr Ipek said.

“You cannot be a spy and a journalist at the same time, you have to select one of them'," he told them. "'What you are doing right now is spying and it is illegal, a crime'."

The media and mining tycoon was a billionaire player for most of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule.

Mr Ipek says he was the second biggest taxpayer in Turkey before local authorities seized his assets and closed his newspapers in September 2015.

He had been caught up in the purge of critics of the Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which worsened after a failed coup in 2016.

Ankara accuses Mr Ipek of being close to the Gulen Movement, banned by Turkish authorities and accused of being behind the coup attempt. He denied the accusations.

He has been in London with his wife and children since August 2015 and successfully beat a Turkish extradition request, which was described as politically motivated by the judge.

Mr Ipek has left behind his brother, who is facing a 90-year jail sentence, and his mother, who can “hardly stand up".

He once had good relations with the AKP and Mr Erdogan.

The two last spoke before 2013 when the then prime minister called Mr Ipek asking him to fire a journalist at one his papers.

“Erdogan doesn’t give people an option. He says, 'You are by my side or you are my enemy',” Mr Ipek said.

“If somebody asked me to attack someone that I don’t know and his family, even today after all this suffering that I’ve been through, I couldn’t do it."

The major turning point was the 2013 Turkish corruption scandal that laid bare the dealings of senior members of the AKP.

Mr Ipek felt that the government expected newspapers and TV stations to attack those who had uncovered the corruption.

“Media cannot sweep that kind of news under the carpet, that’s not possible," he said.

"But at that time the government expected me to take my position next to the government and attack people I don’t know."

He said criticism was good for the government but it took a hard stance expecting "100 per cent obedience and unconditional, unlimited love".

Mr Ipek’s conglomerate, Koza Ipek Holding, was seized by Turkish authorities who claimed it was financing terrorism.

The businessman denies the charges and scoffs at accusations of financial mismanagement.

He would also “like to know what happened” during “black and dark” days of the July 2016 failed coup attempt against the Mr Erdogan’s government.

Mr Ipek wants to understand the vicious crackdown against supposed coup plotters. But he still holds some hope.

“Sooner or later, I am sure things are going to be normal again," he said. "Turkey is going to go back to a legal system, constitution, international law.”

Updated: June 12, 2019 02:59 AM

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